Each chapter includes expert yoga instruction by renowned teachers; inspiring music playlists to motivate readers to practice; thought-provoking art; awesome recipes for delicious, healthy foods to sustain a yoga regimen; and fun, unexpected detours. This wide array of ideas and beautiful visuals is designed to be hyper-stimulating—whether a reader follows the arc of the book from beginning to end or dips into chapters at random, she is sure to find something pleasing to the eye, to feel motivated to practice, and to want to reach for her deepest desires and dreams. This book brings the Wanderlust festival experience into any reader's home.
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Practice, practice, practice. All is coming
find your practice
A CALL TO ACTION
The unexamined life is not worth living.
This is the threshold. To plow through life, seeking pleasures, avoiding pain, rejecting dissonance, reveling in success, and cursing the vicissitudes of fortune. Or to pursue a life of inquiry, simultaneously nonattached and deeply immersed. To experience yourself as both the center of the universe and a dust mote on the filament of history. To choose to have a practice--a daily discipline of yoking your heart to your mind, your mind to your breath, your breath to your body, your body to the earth and the rest of humanity--is to pass this threshold into the examined, mindful life.
The exact way in which you engage in that yoking (in Sanskrit, the yoga) will change. Should change. The course of your relationships, your career, and your health will inevitably shift; the only constant is change. Likewise, your asana practice and other mind/body pursuits will, should shape-shift over a lifetime.
Passion, depression, contentment, injury, exaltation, loss. Will you engage or will you deflect? Will you be immersed or consumed? Like anything substantial, to live a mindful life isn't easy. It takes attention and skill. It takes beginning where you are, as you are now, yoking this larger intention to the present moment. It takes practice.
Place hands mindfully open or at heart center
Close your eyes
The focus of this moment is resonance: OM. Like the ringing of a bell. Like an elliptical sound that begins and ends in full silence.
While OM is often written with just two letters, it is said to be made of four sounds: A, U, M, and the silence afterward. Together these sounds invoke a sense of wholeness, and of cycles. When we sing OM, we touch each part of our mouth's palate, from the front behind the teeth to the top peak, the inside of our mouth, to the depths of the throat, guttural. The sound moves in a wave this way, with a beginning, middle, and end, and then the after-effect: a feeling of shifted energy in the room, a vibration in the core of our chest.
OM is a sacred syllable that represents a very specific yet indescribable conception of the Absolute, of All. In the East, many prayers and powerful mantras start with OM. Here in the West, OM is often found at the beginning and end of a yoga class, opening the practice and sealing up the energy at the end like sonic bookends.
Said to be the sound of the universe, OM reminds us of interdependence: We are connected to the universe, and it is expressing itself through us. We are connected to each other in the room, and beyond the room. When we chant OM, we consciously join our intentions and attentions and expand our thoughts universally. The vibration flows strongly through the body and penetrates the center, resonating deep within us the feeling of yoga, union, with all.
Breathe into the space behind your chest
Empty all of your air and take a deep breath
Sing from your guts, your heart, your throat
Sing from your spirit and your body
Sit for a moment in quiet, be the fourth part, the full silence
Feel the shift you've created with your own voice
The arch and the circle, the ringing, the reminder, the calling toward home
OM is the one eternal syllable of which all that exists is but the development. The past, the present, and the future are all included in this one sound, and all that exists beyond the three forms of time is also implied in it.
YOGA AS.KS US TO ACT: THE EIGHT LIMBS
It's safe to say that as human beings wandering this planet, we share a common desire to be happy. Individually, what fulfills that desire is as unique as our fingerprints or the color of our eyes. But if we look at the grand unifiers, we see a universal longing to create meaning in our lives, the desire to be content and to be free from suffering. It's what this book and the phrase "find your true north" are all about.
Cultural conditioning suggests we can find relief through objects like new clothes, cars, or the latest device. Ironically, this way of thinking may translate to yoga as well. We might be sure that once we nail that elusive posture all will be well. As most of us will agree, this is simply not the case. Learning to do a perfect-looking headstand doesn't equal lasting contentment.
There must be more.
Contemplating this might be enough to take you on a lifelong journey. Fortunately, if that sort of heady pursuit is not your thing, the system of yoga has an eightfold path that provides experiential suggestions to help you find your way. This is a path we walk not just by considering and thinking about, but by doing. Yoga asks us to act.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a text roughly two thousand years old, presents this eightfold path as scaffolding for the hugely transformational endeavor of calming the mind and opening the core of the heart. The eight limbs are a blueprint for selfdiscovery and are intended to be studied and engaged with over a lifetime.
These moral principles can be likened to the basic tenets in almost all spiritual traditions, as they provide the foundation for living a conscientious life, from one's relationship to others to one's relationship with self.
AHIMSA: Nonviolence, compassion, kindness.
SATYA: Truth, truthfulness, honesty.
BRAHMACHARYA: Often translated as celibacy, it is more broadly defined as the conservation of vital energy in order to direct one's attention toward divine pursuits and self-knowledge.
APARIGRAHA: Nongreed, or nonhoarding.
The niyamas are observances that the yogi employs to refine the relationship with one's internal world.
SAUCHA: Cleanliness, inside and out.
SANTOSA: The practice of being happy for no particular reason at all.
TAPAS: Self-discipline, austerity; literally translated as "to burn." To purify through power and heat of intentional practices such as asana and pranayama.
ISVARA PRANIDHANA: Surrender to the supreme, devotion to the divine, recognizing the divine essence in all beings.
In one aspect, it's a preparatory practice that enables one to sit for extended periods in order to study and experience one's internal state through meditation. As the practitioner's attention is drawn toward the physical sensations and energetic shifts that occur throughout the body, the ability to concentrate is refined, and the mind is made ready for a similar course of study on more subtle aspects of being.
Here, prana means life force, but also breath. Ayama can be interpreted as "with restraint," and also suggests length or expansion. Thus, pranayama is the practice of working with the breath to regulate, extend, or restrain it, in order to affect the flow of vital life force in one's being.
Unregulated, the senses of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell, and the desires they produce, can control one's actions, thoughts, and behaviors. Through the powerful push and pull of raga and duesha (attraction and repulsion), the impact of the senses, like a wild horse, can lead an unstudied individual to follow every whim and visceral impulse with abandon. It is thus imperative to retrain one's mind to gain control over these aspects, if one wishes to lead a steady and conscientious life. The ability to witness stimuli, and the feelings they produce, without feeling the need to act or respond to them, tones the yogi's mind.
An initial step toward meditation, the practitioner simply fixes attention on a single point or experience, such as the body, breath, an object, or mantra. An example is candle gazing. The practitioner's focus steadies on the flame while taking notice of all the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise. The intention of dharana is to build the muscle of focus and objective observation.
Dhyana can be understood when we consider that to concentrate the mind initially takes effort (dharana). Sustained concentration, cultivated with consistent practice and sincere effort, eventually transitions into an effortless flow. It's as if a type of inwardly directed momentum takes over and all effort falls away. This is dhyana.
Samadhi is absorption in the experience of supreme consciousness, and is the direct result of continued practice in the meditative state. As one becomes absorbed in the object or experience one focuses on, an experience of beingness is achieved. Eventually, even that original object falls away, and one feels that beingness expand to all things, allowing the practitioner to merge with the heart of consciousness itself. This ecstatic state is beyond the confines of language or regular mental understanding, and so it is often described as neti neti: not this, not this.
The practices and philosophies presented in the eight limbs are not meant for us blindly to accept as truth. The teachings are intended to be put into practice, chewed on, and wrestled with over the course of time.
What you put into it is what you get out.
The following is a very practical and effective method for helping integrate principles like compassion, contentment, and self-study into everyday life. Commit to thirty days of this practice to start.
Create a comfortable place to sit and read through each of the yama and niyama.
Feel which one attracts or compels you in some way.
Choose that one to work with for the month of this exercise.
Write the chosen yama or niyama on sticky notes and place them throughout your home in places that you visit on a regular basis (entrance, refrigerator, bathroom, nightstand). Another good idea is to change your passcode on your phone to the Sanskrit word.
Once the sticky notes are in place, they act as spontaneous check-in points. Over the course of the month, as you come across a note, reflect on your current state and how it relates to the quality you're aiming to cultivate.
It's within that moment of reflection that insights come and awareness of yourself begins to increase.
Watch out for:
JUDGMENT: A crucial component to this exercise is the offering of nonjudgmental awareness to yourself.
This is a time of learning and self-exploration.
One of my favorite teachers, Don Stapleton, likes to say, "IT TAKES THE TIME IT TAKES."
Be patient; honor and respect the process. This is in part how we cultivate a healthy, insightful, and ultimately loving relationship with ourselves. And it's from this place of love and deep connection that we experience the courage and strength to step into the world and truly follow our hearts.
track your daily progress
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SHINE BRIGHT: SUN SAL A
MC YOGI AND SARAH HERRINGTON
Look behind the mind And you will find The place inside Where the sun shines Feel it shine like a star Inside your heart Sun light shine bright Wash away the dark
--"Sun Light" from the album Pilgrimage by MC YOGI
Walk into any yoga class and you're bound to meet Sun Salutation A, aka Surya Namaskara. By linking movement with breath in a continual dance, warm up the body like the sun warms up the earth in a full expression of gratitude. Take this opportunity to give thanks for body, breath, and world around you. Check in. Together let's get ready to move into deeper asana and ignite our practice. ROLL OUT YOUR MAT, LET'S RISE.
SIT ON YOUR ASANA: MEDITATION PRIMER
You cannot step in the same river twice.
--Heraclitus (500 BCE)
Please take out a timer now to mark your time reading this section on meditation. We'll talk about why later on.
Meditation, despite its mystical connotations, is first and foremost a practical perspectivetaking exercise: a tool to get to know your own mind and that part of you that is eternal. Over time, long-term yogi meditators not only feel strong and flexible, but also more confident and clear- minded.
During most of our waking hours, we are so engaged with our thoughts and perceptions that we don't have an awareness of the filter through which we receive them. When you sit in meditation, you step back from the activity of analyzing/processing/creating and witness as these mental processes unfold.
Much as rivers are always shifting, all things, including the mind, are constantly changing. As you become adept at watching the ephemeral nature of the mind, you start to get rooted in that which is constant, unchanging, and always present. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali calls this purusha: the part of you that is the witness. This gravitational shift in consciousness is the great promise of meditation.
At the moment of commitment, the entire universe conspires to assist you.
All meditation practice starts with observing.
1. AFFIRM TO YOURSELF THAT YOU WILL TRY MEDITATING. RIGHT NOW.
Ask just about anyone if they'd like to incorporate meditation into their daily routine, and nearly everyone will say yes! However, the leap between acknowledging the value of the practice and actually doing it is particularly wide. Why is that?
Meditation may appear serene, but it can actually be quite strenuous. When we sit, we are asking ourselves to peel away the multilayered defense of conditioning. Most of us have created a highly functional personality around our insecurities, wounds, and losses, creating a self-image that projects health, happiness, and confidence, both to others and to ourselves. In meditation, there is no one to impress or hide from. You come face-to-face (so to speak) with your raw, unguarded self.
It's not always comfortable to engage at this deeply honest level. We often avoid practices of introspection. Consider that the immediate benefits of meditation practice are not as obvious as a yoga practice. Nobody can see whether you're a good meditator or not. But with sustained effort, most practitioners discover very quickly that they are less reactive and come out of anger and other states more quickly than before. Why not commit to trying it?
Benefits of Meditation
Meditating is linked to stress reduction, and stress is widely acknowledged as a primary cause of disease.
It makes you smarter. Studies show that meditating facilitates neuroplasticity, or your brain's ability to build new pathways of understanding.
Research is showing that meditators develop greater emotional intelligence. Practitioners have a greater ability to perceive their own thoughts and feelings; to harness those thoughts and feelings for high-level problem solving and other cognitive tasks; to work with complicated relationships; and to harness emotions for the greater good.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book. It inspires me to keep up my yoga practice and live life to the fullest.